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11 - Marston: censure, censorship, and free speech

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 October 2009

T. F. Wharton
Affiliation:
Augusta State University
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Summary

The career of John Marston as satirist and playwright was perhaps unduly shaped by the exigencies of state controlled drama. Indeed, it seems to have been a specific act of censorship, in addition to cumulative acts of authorized interference with his drama, which brought Marston's life as a working playwright to a premature close in 1608. Moreover, it can be seen how the texts themselves serve to comment upon as well as exemplify the practice of censorship. It is the purpose of this essay, in tracing the inter-relationship between Marston's plays and the vagaries of Elizabethan and Jacobean censorship, to examine how tropes of the latter insistently figure in the dramatist's work, formulating a discourse on poetic liberty, censure, and censorship.

From the outset of his career, in the non-dramatic satires, the mock-Ovidian Metamorphosis of Pigmalion's Image and Certaine Satyres (May 1598) and the Juvenalian Scourge of Villanie (September 1598), Marston betrays a certain anxiety about his deployment of materials, erotic in the former, satiric in the latter. Although licensed, the works were not sanctioned by the authority of a patron, whose role is occupied by the judicious, well-informed reader. Pigmalion's Image begins with the commonplace apologia, as the persona W. K. addresses a prefatory verse ‘To the Worlds Mightie Monarch, Good Opinion’, asking for a safeguarding of his ‘young new-borne Inuention’ and the protection of ‘an Orphane Poets infancier’.

Type
Chapter
Information
The Drama of John Marston
Critical Re-Visions
, pp. 194 - 211
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2001

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